PRESIDENT Mugabe last night expressed shock and sadness at the tragic loss of lives in the horror bus crash that claimed 43 lives and injured 33 others along the Harare-Chirundu Highway on Wednesday night. In a statement issued in New York where he is attending the inaugural High-Level UN Conference on the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, President Mugabe wished the injured a speedy recovery.
“It is with great shock and sadness that I learned this morning about the tragic bus accident last night along the Harare-Chirundu highway that has claimed about 43 lives and injured many others. The senseless loss of so many innocent lives in circumstances that could otherwise have been avoidable is heart-rending and most regrettable,” President Mugabe said.
“The nation mourns with the families of the deceased and extends its prayers for the speedy recovery of those injured in this bus disaster.
“On behalf of Government and the people of Zimbabwe, my family and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the affected families on the loss of their beloved ones.
‘‘May they derive comfort from the knowledge that the entire nation bereaves with them during this, their darkest hour of grief. May the dear souls of those lost in this terrible tragedy rest in eternal peace,” President Mugabe said.
Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday said Government was working on arrangements to declare state of disaster.
The driver of the King Lion bus — who died on the spot — lost control of the vehicle at the 257km peg, near Nyamakate shops at around 10pm on Wednesday on the way to Zambia.
The bus veered off the road before ramming into a big tree several metres away in the bush, killing 42 people on the spot.
This comes after another accident in April this year involving a Proliner bus killed 21 people, some burnt beyond recognition, when it was sideswiped by a haulage truck at Nyamatikiti River near Chaka Business Centre in Chirumanzu.
Addressing the National Assembly in Harare yesterday, Acting President Mnangagwa said a team led by a Government minister and senior Government officials had been deployed to the scene of the accident to have a full appreciation of the situation.
“With a heavy heart, I confirm the death of about 43 people. We have dispatched Government ministers to assess the situation and we are preparing how Government can assist upon declaring the accident a national disaster by the President,” said Acting President Mnangagwa.
He was responding to enquiries from Kuwadzana East legislator Mr Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) on what Government was doing about the accident.
In statement last night, the Acting President said Government was saddened by the sudden loss of 43 lives.
“I learnt with deep grief of the tragic loss of 43 lives in a road traffic accident involving a Lusaka-bound bus which occurred after Karoi.
“That such a huge loss of precious lives comes soon after a spate of similar traffic accidents along our roads enjoins all stakeholders, principally public transport operators and other road users, to introspect on their scheduling decisions, and conduct and behaviours while in transit. Whatever limitations there might be on our infrastructure, specifically on the state of our roads, clearly these limitations by themselves need not preordain a tragic fate on innocent and trusting commuters,” Cde Mnangagwa said.
“There is a lot which owners and users of vehicles, as well as those mandated to enforce traffic laws, can do to avert such tragic disasters whose result is needless loss of lives, physical injury and incapacitation. Time and time again the police have discouraged road users, especially public transport operators, from embarking on night travel as well as chasing after profits without due regard to the safety of their patrons,” he said.
He said Government would be forced to protect the travelling public by imposing strict schedules and discipline on the roads.
“The first principle in business must surely be to uphold the sanctify of life. On behalf of His Excellency the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R.G Mugabe, who is away on an international fixture, may I express Government sympathies to families which have lost their beloved ones,” he said.
“In so doing, may I also wish speedy recovery to all those hurt in this latest incident. Government will soon announce appropriate measures meant to bring some relief and assistance to affected families in their hour of deep grief and bereavement.”
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said 19 of the accident victims had been identified and called on people who had relatives on board the ill-fated bus to come and identify the bodies.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to confirm a fatal road traffic accident involving a King Lion bus which was travelling from Harare to Lusaka, Zambia, which occurred along Harare-Chirundu at the 257km peg near Nyamakate shops, Karoi.
“On approaching the 257km peg, the driver failed to negotiate a curve and the bus veered off the road and rammed into a big tree, killing the driver on the spot together with 42 other passengers,” she said.
“Due to the impact of the crash, some of the passengers’ seats were dislodged and thrown to the front of the bus. Thirty passengers were injured, five seriously and have since been transferred to Harare for further management. Twenty-five are receiving treatment at Chinhoyi and Karoi hospitals in a stable condition.”
The bodies of the deceased were taken to Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital mortuary for post-mortem.
“The ZRP is investigating the traffic accident and more details will be availed in due course,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Cde Saviour Kasukuwere said Government would assist the bereaved families.
“Government will certainly, after his Excellency (President Mugabe) gives his authorization, proceed to declare a state of disaster,” said Cde Kasukuwere.
“This will entail mobilization of resources from Government to assist in the repatriation of those who have lost their lives to the various areas and also ensure that those in hospital are looked after and treated.”
He described the accident as a tragedy, coming hard on the heels of another accident in Masvingo, which claimed the lives of 30 passengers.
Government, he said, was taking measures to reduce road carnage, including dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway.
Government said transport operators had chipped in with comprehensive insurance to cover burial and medical expenses.
Cde Kasukuwere said discussions led by President Mugabe in Cancun, Mexico, identified road accidents as a major cause of death globally.
He said drivers should exercise caution on the roads to avoid such tragedies while calling on transport operators to put in place measures to monitor their drivers.
More than 80 percent of the accidents have been attributed to human error.